New research suggests mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can relieve depression. The paper is available in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) affects over 16 million people each year, and that’s just in the United States.

It is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for folks between the ages of 15 to 45. 

MDD is very treatable, however, medication alone rarely works. In fact, studies show that the leading medications prescribed for MDD are no more effective than placebo and often lead to relapse. 

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) trains people to respond to negative self-thoughts with acceptance and compassion. 

And according to the new study, it works. 

The research team found that MBCT “reduces engagement of neural networks associated with salient emotions when feeling self-blame.”

Essentially, after 6 weeks of MBCT, the patient’s brains were altered in a way that reduced feelings of self-guilt. These brain changes also connect to greater self-kindness and compassion. 

The fact that mindfulness training can physically change our brains is not necessarily new information.

But, this study presents concrete evidence that mindfulness exercises can treat depression. MBCT offers a cheap, side-effect-free option that could help millions of people worldwide. 

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness and how you can use it in your daily life, read this